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In this article, we are going to look at the following;

 Meaning of word class

 Examples of word classes

  1. Meaning of Word Class; A word class refers to the category a word or group of words belong based on their formal properties and the function they play in grammar. In traditional grammar, word class is also known as part of speech.

Now, let’s look at two key terms in the definition;

i. Formal properties; When we talk about formal properties, we are looking at inflections, i.e. the ending of a word to determine its class.
Words that end in the following suffixes; -dom, eg. Kingdom, freedom, -ation, eg. Education, socialization, -er, e.g. painter, manager etc. are often classified as Nouns suffixes, that is to say, when a word ends in any of the above suffixes, such a word will be classified as a noun.

Words that end in -ful are usually classified as adjectives. Eg. Harmful, beautiful, powerful etc.

It is generally believed that most words that end in -ly are adverbs, most often, adverbs of manner. E.g. powerfully, harmfully, beautifully etc. We shall look at the inflectional suffixes for the various word classes in our subsequent discussions.

Also, Suffixes like -ed, eg. Walked, danced, -ing, eg. Walking, dancing etc. are classified as verb suffixes, that is to say any word that ends in either of the suffixes illustrated above is classified as a verb.

However, an issue will arise in usage, especially, in the case of the later examples (i.e. words that end in -ing) because there are instances where words ending in -ing will rather function as different word classes, instead of the traditional notion that any word that ends in -ing being a verb.
Eg. Walking is an exercise.
In the above example, walking, even though, ends in -ing, is not a verb.
This suffices the notion of most grammarians who hold the belief that, the word class and the meaning of a word cannot be determined until that word is used in a context.
Therefore, this leads the discussion to the second key term in our definition;

ii. The function of the word in grammar; The word class of a word can accurately be determined based on the function of that word in a sentence or a context.
Eg. i. Walking is an exercise.
ii. I am walking to the party.
iii. My walking stick is broken.

In the above examples, walking, as used in example i. is a noun (gerund) because its function as far as the sentence is concerned is ‘subject’. Even though it is not wrong to call it a noun in this context, we will technically call it a gerund in our subsequent discussions.

In example ii, the same word, walking, is a verb because it forms part of the verb phrase in the sentence, thus, expressing an action.

In example iii, the same word, walking, is used to modify the word ‘stick’, in which case, it becomes an adjective based on this function it plays in that sentence.

Generally, the word class of a word can be determined in one of these three ways;

a. The meaning of the word
b. The form/shape of the word, i.e. the ending or inflection
c. The function of the word in a sentence.

2. Examples of word classes;

There are eight classes of words/parts of speech;

  1. Nouns
  2. Pronouns
  3. Adjectives
  4. Verbs
  5. Adverbs
  6. Conjunctions
  7. Prepositions
  8. Interjections
    These word classes or parts of speech will be explained later.

On this note, we have come to the end of this article. The next article will cover the following areas;

i. Classification of word classes

ii. Brief meaning of the various word classes


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